Last March, on the 30th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan introduced legislation entitled the “Spill Response and Prevention Surety Act.” While the Senate hasn’t yet voted on the bill, it’s important to know what the legislation includes as it affects everyone from vessel operators to spill response agencies.
The Spill Response and Prevention Surety Act was created to reinstitute the financing rate for the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (OSLTF), which expired in December 2018. OSLTF was originally established under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and provides federal funding for oil spill removal efforts, as well as compensation for people and entities impacted by a spill disaster.
Senator Sullivan and supporting parties introduced the Spill Response and Prevention Surety Act to extend and expand the protection of U.S. waters, environmental habitats, and local communities.
What the New Bill Proposes
The Spill Response and Prevention Surety Act would permanently reauthorize the OSLTF and modify the fund to make needed improvements. In summary, the new legislation:
- Reinstitutes the existing 9 cent per barrel tax.
- Creates a $7 billion tax collection ceiling and $5 billion collection floor.
- Creates a biennial $10 million response and prevention grant program for research and development.
- Creates an annual $25 million prevention grant program for technology upgrades, strategic planning, and inoperable/abandoned vessel collection.
If the Spill Response and Prevention Surety Act passes, both the single incident payout claim and the natural resource damage claim would double, to $2 billion and $1 billion respectively.
This funding is crucial to provide the federal funds for oil spill removal efforts and compensation for those impacted by a spill.
The bill was introduced to the Senate on March 25, 2019 during the 116th Congressional session. It has been referred to the Committee on Finance, where it’s currently pending further action.